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Saturday is Earth Day

April 21, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Our little piece of the Earth is exceedingly dry right now. We are cut back to irrigating one day a week. If we get too greedy, it spoils things for others as well as our own well being.

Every year, Earth Day falls on the 22nd day of April. Unlike Arbor Day, which has a set calendar calculation, Florida's Arbor Day is the third Friday in January, while our National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April. We have another week before we can plant a tree for National Arbor Day.

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of our modern environmental movement. In 1970, 47 years ago, the word "environmental" entered our vocabulary. Remem-ber the '70s? Counter-culture and hippies reigned. We became, or were made aware of our surroundings. The Vietnam War raged, we were slurping leaded gas in our massive V8 sedans, industry belched out loaded smoke because air pollution was not a bad word then and it was the smell of prosperity. Back in 1962, Rachel Carson wrote a New York Times best seller book, "Silent Spring," that slowly seeped into our sensibilities; our concern for living organisms, our environment and their effects on our health were awaken.

In 1969, a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and its consequences alerted U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, from Wisconsin, that something needed to be done for our environment. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he felt using that kind of energy could help raise the public's involvement. His idea was to have a "national teach-in on environment." Denis Hayes, from Harvard, was chosen to be the national coordinator with a national staff of 85 people to promote these ideas across our nation. April 22 was the date chosen because it was in between Spring Break and final exams.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums, demonstrating in massive rallies for a healthy, sustainable environment. Thousands of colleges and universities organized against the deterioration of the environment. Individual groups that had their own specific causes, united under this one big cause, Earth Day's phenomena were their shared common values. Environmental entered our vocabulary. The United States EPA and the passage of the Clean Air Act were formed by the year's end.

As 1990 neared, a group of environmental leaders asked Hayes to form an international campaign, Earth Day went global - 200 million people, 141 countries lifted the environmental issues world-wide. Recycling efforts were worldwide, paving the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.

By 2010, there were great challenges by climate deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians and a disinterested public. Despite these challenges, Earth Day has prevailed, bringing 250,000 people to a rally at the National Mall, which launched the world's largest environmental service project - the Billion Acts of Green - that introduced global tree planting, now called the Canopy Project with 22,000 partners in 192 countries, all observing Earth Day.

Over a billion people yearly use Earth Day as a day of action, challenging human behavior to provide policy changes for the betterment of mankind.

It is a continual fight for a clean environment, as the ravages of climate change appear. 2020 will mark its 50 anniversary. The next three years will find a push for more global collaboration. Earth Days 2016 theme was "Trees for the Earth." That year they set their goal for planting 7.8 billion trees - one for every person on this planet by Earth Day 2020.

This year's theme is "Environmental and Climate Literacy," believing that before we can solve the issues facing us in the 21st century, there must be built a global group of knowledgeable people professing the true environmental science fluent in local and global ecological issues. School toolkits are available for schools, colleges and community groups across the world for future events. Visit Earth Day Educator's Network.

I fear for our National EPA and Clean Air Act in this new political era. Now is the time to stand firm with our conscious guiding us. There is too much to lose. We have come so far with new challenges facing us daily. Are we complacent, tired or uncaring? I hope not. Being eco-friendly not only saves lives, but makes living easier.

The good news is - we have two excuses to plant trees this week, Earth Day Saturday and National Arbor Day next Friday. Let's not forget to hug a tree and thank them for their future provisions, giving us oxygen, cleaning out the carbon dioxide, shade and cooling in the heat, food if fruit or nuts, lumber for building shelters and homes, aesthetic surroundings as in Forest Bathing, soothing our souls.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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